Extreme reaction

What motivates the violent right-wing reaction witnessed over the past 10 days in response to the discovery of the bodies of the Jewish teens?

A right-wing protest on Jaffa Road last Wednesday. Radical forces have a framework in which to grow during politically unstable times. (photo credit: AVIVA LOEB)
A right-wing protest on Jaffa Road last Wednesday. Radical forces have a framework in which to grow during politically unstable times.
(photo credit: AVIVA LOEB)
The crowd walked down Jaffa Road outside of the offices of The Jerusalem Post, chanting anti-Arab slogans and calling for revenge for the murders of the three yeshiva boys buried side by side that day in Modi’in.
“Death to the Arabs,” some of the teens shouted last Tuesday, while other assaulted passing Arabs and entered Arab-owned stores, smashing racks of food to the floor. Many of those marching down the street wore stickers stating that Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, was right.
“There were people shouting at the owner about revenge and how the government needs to do something, and they overturned the store’s candy stands,” said Lia Kamana, a Post intern who was hit by a police officer while reporting on the riot. “The owner’s two little girls were freaking out and crying.”
Twenty-eight people were arrested after the police stopped the rioters short of the Old City, where they stood demanding vengeance against the Arabs. The mostly teenaged demonstrators distributing stickers demanded the same along the length of Jaffa Road.
The bodies of yeshiva students Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah had been discovered the day before the riots, buried in a ditch near Hebron, only kilometers from where they had disappeared 18 days earlier. Israel blamed Hamas for the kidnapping, fingering Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh as the perpetrators.
Hamas has denied any role in the attack.
The next day, the body of Israeli-Arab teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir was found in the Jerusalem Forest; autopsy results indicate he was burned to death.
While many Israelis, reluctant to believe the murder could have been perpetrated by a Jew, at first claimed that Abu Khdeir’s death was the result of a family feud, police quickly arrested six Jews. Some of the suspects soon confessed to the crime, which was apparently undertaken as revenge for the murders of the three yeshiva students.
Even while the Fraenkel, Shaer and Yifrah families appealed for calm, condemning the attacks together with local and national authorities, the situation continued to deteriorate. Arabs across the country rioted, pulling Jews from their cars and setting them alight in one village, throwing stones at buses, burning garbage cans in Jerusalem and fighting with the police elsewhere. Scrawled swastikas and calls for the death of Jews have been photographed by Post staffers on sidewalks in the capital as well.
As Arabs and Jews fought, the IDF began arresting soldiers participating in a Facebook group demanding revenge, some of whom had posed for photos in uniform posted to social media. According to Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, insufficient policing may be to blame.
Speaking with In Jerusalem, Michaeli said she believed that stricter enforcement of the law would help nip Jewish violence in the bud.
However, she admitted, that is not the whole story. In fact, the rioting and subsequent murder of Abu Khdeir shocked Israelis.
While there have been a significant number of arson and vandalism “price-tag” attacks in the West Bank over the past several years, usually in response to terror attacks or government evacuations of hilltop settlements, murder and public racism as seen over the past week are not regular occurrences.
In the case of price-tag attacks, much of the motivation comes from those on the radical Right, especially among the followers of a number of rabbis from the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar – certainly not mainstream figures.
In 2009 Yosef Elitzur, a senior rabbi at the yeshiva, published an article laying out his ideology and a new and radically different sort of price tag. Elitzur stated that he and his followers “do not discriminate: if the Jews don’t have quiet, the Arabs won’t have quiet. If the Arabs win because of violence against Jews, the Jews will win by violence against Arabs.”
Yet if this ideology is widely condemned by Israelis and leaders of the settlement movement, what accounts for the recent change of tenor in the public sphere? Several price-tag participants who spoke with the Post in 2011 stated their activities stemmed from the feeling that not enough was being done to protect them from Palestinian terrorism, and the frequent fire-bombings, rock-throwing attacks and similar incidents that occur where they live. While part of their activities were attributable to settlement policy, the rest came from a lack of faith in Israel’s security apparatus, they indicated.
“The blood of soldiers and civilians in Israel is a tool in the hands of small politicians,” one price tagger told the Post at the time.
According to Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, director of the Shalom Hartman Institute, a think tank in Jerusalem, Israelis have lost faith in what he calls the “myth of stability.”
“One of the features of Israeli society is that we really want to be a Western society in the Middle East, and one of the features of the West is the myth of stability, that you have a right to stability and you have a right to safety. When our kids get kidnapped… our myth that we are living in North America sort of shatters, and that myth is very important for Israelis,” he said.
“Now, in the midst of that anger and frustration, the radical forces have a framework in which to grow,” he explained, stating that radical aspects of Judaism which are normally suppressed and outside the mainstream are able to flourish at such times of great national stress.
“When society is panicky and angry and mourning, the fringe is allowed to surface – because during normal events they are completely different from everyone else, but in the midst of the mourning they become more similar. There was more talk about revenge, talk about ‘once and for all, let’s show them,’ so they said ‘let’s do it once and for all,’ as if this would give back that type of